Patience

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By the time most of us reach adulthood, we’ve probably spent numerous hours in waiting rooms. Waiting room. Now there’s an appropriate name, right? And who waits in waiting rooms? Patients! Even though it’s spelled differently, that’s a pretty appropriate word. Most of us like to know how our time is going to be spent. If something is supposed to take an hour, we can get a little irritated when the hour comes and goes. What about lines? Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or stuck in the middle of hundreds of cars on a freeway, waiting can be a challenge to our cheery nature.

Patience is one of those virtues God instructs us to develop in our walk with him. In 1st Corinthians 13 patience is mentioned in a description of love: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, … Romans 12:12 says further: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Certainly the pandemic we find ourselves in the middle of has strained our patience. “I can’t wait” seems to be a constant theme in our discussions. People say things like, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to wear this mask,” I can’t wait until everything is back to normal,” and “I can’t wait for all this to be over.” No matter what the issue is in our lives, there’s no doubt patience will continue to be a lesson we have to brush up on. If you’re like me, while you’re busy relearning it, one of the people you’ll have to be most patient with is yourself.

God, thank you for being patient with me,
one of your many works in progress.
Help me replace my impatience
with prayers you’ve yet to answer
with gratitude for those you have.

©Joel Tipple 7/12/2020

Trouble

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I was nine years old. Four or five of us boys from the neighborhood were out riding our bikes on a summer day. We didn’t have anything special to do; we were just out. One of the nice things about growing up in a small town when I did was if your parents didn’t have any particular chores for you to do, you were given the freedom to just go be a child and explore, so that’s what we were doing. Beyond making sure we got home by dinner, all we had to do was try to stay out of any trouble we’d have to explain to adults later. Little did we know as we set out that soon we’d all be caught up in a sting operation.

At the end of the street where I lived was a field with some scrub trees and berry bushes fronting a little hill. The area looked interesting enough, so we all dropped our bikes at the fence in front of the field and made our way to the other side. After we’d walked around a bit, one of my buddies tossed a can he’d found at one of the berry bushes. That’s when our lazy summer day got a little more lively because the bees that we’d apparently disturbed saw my friend’s can as their very own personal Pearl Harbor. At this age, all I knew about bee attacks was what I’d learned from cartoons. That is, if you made bees angry, they formed a central squadron that you could see coming toward you. Then, all you had to do was run faster than the bees could fly. I’m pretty sure Yogi Bear did it a couple times. However, in our case we had no warning. One moment we were laughing and talking. The next, we were screaming and frantically running toward our bikes. Looking back, they must have been honey bees because their barbs were getting pulled out after harpooning us. I got most of my stings on one arm, and the bees were falling out of my sleeve as I pedaled home. One friend was actually stung by a bumble bee. I don’t know if it was a mercenary or just doing the right thing by supporting its local bee friends. Thankfully, none of us were allergic, and we all recovered from our bee experience fairly quickly in the days that followed, but we discovered that sometimes even if you’re not looking for trouble, trouble will find you anyway.

Right now, we’re all in the middle of one sort of trouble or another, many of them related to a central cause. There’s even argument over whether we saw it coming. But whether we did or not, it’s here. Our physical and financial health is under pressure worldwide, either directly related to covid 19 or the governmental response to it. Once again, political disputes over how to react appropriately threaten to cause irreparable damage to relationships that are already under pressure, all the way from personal to international. How do we react? How do we conduct ourselves during great times of stress? God has taught us we are to confront trouble in our lives not with our strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way we will stand firm, and not lose heart but rather exercise the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7
ESV

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 ESV


Lord, give me courage
when it seems that I’m all out
give me answers
when I try to make my own
When I’m at my wit’s end
calm my mind
hold me safe
a branch of your vine


You are light
where there is darkness
understanding
where there’s confusion
certainty
where there is doubt
help me abide
a branch of your vine


© Joel Tipple 4/19/2020










Living and Trusting Now

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In the grocery store where I work, this week things got real, then they got surreal. Since we’re an essential service, we’re one of the businesses remaining open following the mandatory shelter in place declaration. After all, people gotta eat. Since the corona virus arrived in our country, our leaders have been adopting strategies intended to slow its spread. For the most part, people have been trying to do their part, but, people being people, their part doesn’t always go so well. Sometimes… it just goes weird. While social distancing and hand washing seem to be the prevailing advice, we’ve had customers shop in all sorts of garb, with the intent of avoiding covid 19. One customer, who apparently couldn’t find a more traditional mask, opted instead for wearing a baby diaper on her face. One guy came in wearing a full on hazmat suit! Various other forms of protective garb have included all kinds of masks, such as the traditional bandanna. At various times the store has looked like the set of a budget movie featuring actors dressed in a combination of medical and stick-up artist costumes. While a cloud of tension hangs in the air, some customers have been doing their regular shopping, while others try to get enough supplies to stay home for the while. Three squares a day has now become a euphemism for toilet paper rationing.

Although the time we’re living through is difficult, and even bizarre, there has never been a greater opportunity in our lifetime to exhibit what trust in God looks like. The joy Christians are gifted with dries up when it isn’t shared, and we can and must share joy, especially to contrast with recent events. Yes, we are grateful Jesus has defeated death! This is the foundation of our hope. But even while we are filled with gratitude for eternity, we need to be an example of how to live now, especially because it’s hard. There will be times when we lose patience with our fellow man and with ourselves, but we can’t afford to give in to the negative emotions, words, and actions around us. Instead, we must learn to see ourselves through the eyes of Jesus and trust His intention for our now and forever.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV


Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make.
Proverbs 3:5 TPT


 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:26-27
NIV

Give us vision beyond ourselves, God
for the future and the now
Fill us with true joy
based on true hope
to share with the rest of your children
Jesus, foundation of our trust
Jesus, advocate, Savior
Be our light within
Be our light without
As we walk
bless and keep your pilgrims

© Joel Tipple 3/22/2020






My Help

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I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121 ESV

Safety on the journey. And whoa, what a journey! Right? No matter who you are, no matter your station in life, you might feel at the moment like you’re stuck on the Titanic as it goes down, with the band continuing to play on one side, while your lifeboat lowers on the other. The problem? Your lifeboat only has room for one guy and 25 packages of toilet paper, his toilet paper. Seriously though, the one thing I won’t be doing this week is give you advice about a certain virus. We’re getting plenty of advice right now, some of it even from informed sources. By the time the current crisis has subsided, I’m certain we’ll all feel like we’ve earned a fistful of college credits toward a degree in epidemiology. Besides keeping up with that continuing education, there is one thing in particular I’m trying to focus on, my attitude. It’s easy to be judgmental toward people who are fearful. Depending on your situation and, let’s face it, simply your emotional makeup, you might have trouble relating to folks who are freaking out. If some of the long lines and short tempers are any indication, a lot of folks are just plain scared. Have you ever noticed how helpful you can be by telling someone who is freaking out, “Hey, stop freaking out!” Me neither. I believe I can do the most good as far as my reach goes by being prayerful, helpful, and compassionate towards those around me. If any of my words or actions don’t fall within those parameters, I’m just making noise. What did Paul call it? “A sounding brass or clanging cymbal.” 1st Corinthians 13 teaches me that’s not what love sounds like.

The second thing we can do is, like the Psalmist says, focus on where our help comes from, no matter the situation. When the people we love are frightened, sick, or in pain, our help comes from the Lord. When the institutions we rely on struggle to meet new challenges, our help comes from the Lord. When we ourselves grow tired, fearful, and lose patience with those around us, our help still comes from the Lord.

When life’s overwhelming
and I’m reminded of just how small
I truly am
I run to you great maker
caretaker
never forsaker

You’re the one I sing
Through the noise
your voice rings
never alone
no matter where I go
I’m always home
all encompassing God

© Joel Tipple 3/15/2020


Nonconformists

Venezuelan Poodle Moth
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But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 ESV


Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 ESV

The Venezuelan Poodle Moth is interesting because it’s so unique. You might say it’s a nonconformist since it’s different, but of course you’d be wrong. It was simply made that way. Humans are unique, in that their nonconformity may come as a result of birth or choice. Depending on your situation, you may say you don’t conform to the norm because that’s simply the way you are, but in many cases we are nonconformists because we’ve chosen to be.

There’s a common misconception in the world that being a Christian is all about conforming. If that’s true in the minds of so many, I suppose we’ve come full circle, because historically, Christians have been anything but conformists. Consider the response of Rome at the height of its power to the Christians who dared to be different. When Paul encouraged followers of Christ to not be conformed to their world, he was painfully aware of the high price those who took his advice literally might pay. Then, as now, holders of power were willing to do whatever was necessary to maintain the status quo. In the United States, where freedom of religion is a recognized right, Christians are able to worship freely, although tension between church and state still persists in the areas where our beliefs are impinged upon by legislation. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where you can worship as you please, it can be hard to relate to those who don’t have that freedom. Still, in some countries Christians are imprisoned or even executed for their beliefs. What does it say about the power of the Word when Christians in China must share pages torn from bibles? How do followers of Christ find the courage to stand for God when they live in a part of the world that punishes that stand with death? In our world we will remain unique in our desire to stand for God’s laws, even though the cost for that stand may be loss of freedom or death. That freedom, along with our responsibility to stand up for it, should never be taken lightly.

“Truly, there is a Christian note which makes the whole World vibrate, like an immense gong, in the divine Christ. This note is unique and universal, and in it alone consists the Gospel.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


There’s a tension between the world
and the way I am.
It comes from a choice I’ve made;
I suppose you can say it’s my stand.
I can’t boast of some inner strength
that makes me better than those
who go along.
Still, I’m thankful God’s given me
this unique song.
I’m a grateful nonconformist
trying to conform
to God’s plan.


© Joel Tipple 2/23/2020